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9.2: Types of Chemical Bonds

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    • To quantitatively describe the energetic factors involved in the formation of an ionic bond.

    Chemical bonds form when electrons can be simultaneously close to two or more nuclei, but beyond this, there is no simple, easily understood theory that would not only explain why atoms bind together to form molecules, but would also predict the three-dimensional structures of the resulting compounds as well as the energies and other properties of the bonds themselves. Unfortunately, no one theory exists that accomplishes these goals in a satisfactory way for all of the many categories of compounds that are known. Moreover, it seems likely that if such a theory does ever come into being, it will be far from simple.

    When we are faced with a scientific problem of this complexity, experience has shown that it is often more useful to concentrate instead on developing models. A scientific model is something like a theory in that it should be able to explain observed phenomena and to make useful predictions. But whereas a theory can be discredited by a single contradictory case, a model can be useful even if it does not encompass all instances of the phenomena it attempts to explain. We do not even require that a model be a credible representation of reality; all we ask is that be able to explain the behavior of those cases to which it is applicable in terms that are consistent with the model itself. An example of a model that you may already know about is the kinetic molecular theory of gases. Despite its name, this is really a model (at least at the level that beginning students use it) because it does not even try to explain the observed behavior of real gases. Nevertheless, it serves as a tool for developing our understanding of gases, and as a starting point for more elaborate treatments.Given the extraordinary variety of ways in which atoms combine into aggregates, it should come as no surprise that a number of useful bonding models have been developed. Most of them apply only to certain classes of compounds, or attempt to explain only a restricted range of phenomena. In this section we will provide brief descriptions of some of the bonding models; the more important of these will be treated in much more detail in later parts of this chapter.

    Ionic Bonding

    Ions are atoms or molecules which are electrically charged. Cations are positively charged and anions carry a negative charge. Ions form when atoms gain or lose electrons. Since electrons are negatively charged, an atom that loses one or more electrons will become positively charged; an atom that gains one or more electrons becomes negatively charged. Ionic bonding is the attraction between positively- and negatively-charged ions. These oppositely charged ions attract each other to form ionic networks (or lattices). Electrostatics explains why this happens: opposite charges attract and like charges repel. When many ions attract each other, they form large, ordered, crystal lattices in which each ion is surrounded by ions of the opposite charge. Generally, when metals react with non-metals, electrons are transferred from the metals to the non-metals. The metals form positively-charged ions and the non-metals form negatively-charged ions.

    Ionic bonds form when metals and non-metals chemically react. By definition, a metal is relatively stable if it loses electrons to form a complete valence shell and becomes positively charged. Likewise, a non-metal becomes stable by gaining electrons to complete its valence shell and become negatively charged. When metals and non-metals react, the metals lose electrons by transferring them to the non-metals, which gain them. Consequently, ions are formed, which instantly attract each other—ionic bonding.

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\): Sodium Chloride

    For example, in the reaction of Na (sodium) and Cl (chlorine), each Cl atom takes one electron from a Na atom. Therefore each Na becomes a Na+ cation and each Cl atom becomes a Cl- anion. Due to their opposite charges, they attract each other to form an ionic lattice. The formula (ratio of positive to negative ions) in the lattice is NaCl.

    \[2Na_{(s)} + Cl_{2(g)} \rightarrow 2NaCl_{(s)}\]

    These ions are arranged in solid NaCl in a regular three-dimensional arrangement (or lattice):

    NaCl lattice. (left) 3-D structure and (right) simple 2D slice through lattes. Images used with permission from Wikipedia and Mike Blaber.

    The chlorine has a high affinity for electrons, and the sodium has a low ionization potential. Thus the chlorine gains an electron from the sodium atom. This can be represented using electron-dot symbols (here we will consider one chlorine atom, rather than Cl2):

    The arrow indicates the transfer of the electron from sodium to chlorine to form the Na+ metal ion and the Cl- chloride ion. Each ion now has an octet of electrons in its valence shell:

    • Na+: 2s22p6
    • Cl-: 3s23p6

    Covalent Bonding

    Formation of an ionic bond by complete transfer of an electron from one atom to another is possible only for a fairly restricted set of elements. Covalent bonding, in which neither atom loses complete control over its valence electrons, is much more common. In a covalent bond the electrons occupy a region of space between the two nuclei and are said to be shared by them. This model originated with the theory developed by G.N. Lewis in 1916, and it remains the most widely-used model of chemical bonding. The essential element s of this model can best be understood by examining the simplest possible molecule. This is the hydrogen molecule ion H2+, which consists of two nuclei and one electron. First, however, think what would happen if we tried to make the even simpler molecule H22+. Since this would consist only of two protons whose electrostatic charges would repel each other at all distances, it is clear that such a molecule cannot exist; something more than two nuclei are required for bonding to occur.

    In the hydrogen molecule ion H2+ we have a third particle, an electron. The effect of this electron will depend on its location with respect to the two nuclei. If the electron is in the space between the two nuclei, it will attract both protons toward itself, and thus toward each other. If the total attraction energy exceeds the internuclear repulsion, there will be a net bonding effect and the molecule will be stable. If, on the other hand, the electron is off to one side, it will attract both nuclei, but it will attract the closer one much more strongly, owing to the inverse-square nature of Coulomb's law. As a consequence, the electron will now help the electrostatic repulsion to push the two nuclei apart.

    We see, then, that the electron is an essential component of a chemical bond, but that it must be in the right place: between the two nuclei. Coulomb's law can be used to calculate the forces experienced by the two nuclei for various positions of the electron. This allows us to define two regions of space about the nuclei, as shown in the figure. One region, the binding region, depicts locations at which the electron exerts a net binding effect on the new nuclei. Outside of this, in the antibinding region, the electron will actually work against binding.Summary

    The amount of energy needed to separate a gaseous ion pair is its bond energy. The formation of ionic compounds are usually extremely exothermic. The strength of the electrostatic attraction between ions with opposite charges is directly proportional to the magnitude of the charges on the ions and inversely proportional to the internuclear distance. The total energy of the system is a balance between the repulsive interactions between electrons on adjacent ions and the attractive interactions between ions with opposite charges.

    Metallic Bonding

    Metals have several qualities that are unique, such as the ability to conduct electricity, a low ionization energy, and a low electronegativity (so they will give up electrons easily, i.e., they are cations). Metallic bonding is sort of like covalent bonding, because it involves sharing electrons. The simplest model of metallic bonding is the "sea of electrons" model, which imagines that the atoms sit in a sea of valence electrons that are delocalized over all the atoms. Because there are not specific bonds between individual atoms, metals are more flexible. The atoms can move around and the electron sea will keep holding them together. Some metals are very hard and have very high melting points, while others are soft and have low melting points. This depends roughly on the number of valence electrons that form the sea.

    A False Dichotomy: The Ionic vs. Colvalent

    The covalent-ionic continuum described above is certainly an improvement over the old covalent -versus - ionic dichotomy that existed only in the textbook and classroom, but it is still only a one-dimensional view of a multidimensional world, and thus a view that hides more than it reveals. The main thing missing is any allowance for the type of bonding that occurs between more pairs of elements than any other: metallic bonding. Intermetallic compounds are rarely even mentioned in introductory courses, but since most of the elements are metals, there are a lot of them, and many play an important role in metallurgy. In metallic bonding, the valence electrons lose their association with individual atoms; they form what amounts to a mobile "electron fluid" that fills the space between the crystal lattice positions occupied by the atoms, (now essentially positive ions.) The more readily this electron delocalization occurs, the more "metallic" the element.

    Thus instead of the one-dimension chart shown above, we can construct a triangular diagram whose corners represent the three extremes of "pure" covalent, ionic, and metallic bonding.